Physical Therapy Publications

Understanding the Professional Socialization of Canadian Physical Therapy Students: A Qualitative Investigation

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2009


Physiotherapy Canada





First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier


Purpose: To understand the professional socialization of physical therapy (PT) students.

Method: Forty-two students enrolled in our newly developed master's degree programme wrote three-page reflective journals on a critical learning incident after each of three selected clinical experiences. The journals were coded and analyzed, and major themes were identified and described. A separate cohort of 44 students participated in focus groups after the same three clinical experiences to check the trustworthiness of the results.

Results: Following the first placement, the main themes coded were emotions, self-confidence, professionalism in the real world, communication, and learning by doing. After the intermediate placement, major themes were idealism versus realism, depth of communication with clients, and breadth of communication with family members and colleagues. Aspects of clinical learning were variable, and self-confidence remained an issue. After the final placement, most students were deeply engaged with their clients and self-confidence had developed to the point of self-efficacy. Tensions increased between the concept of ideal practice and the pragmatics of actual practice, and the concept of self as protégé (rather than as object of the supervisor's evaluation) emerged. The themes were subsequently assembled in a booklet with representative quotations.

Conclusion: These results contribute to foundational knowledge required by PT educators, including clinical instructors, by explicitly describing the professional socialization of PT students.

Find in your library